Scottish hip hop tends to get a bad rap (no pun intended). To tell people in London that some of the most original hip hop in the UK is happening north of the border is to tempt disbelief. Southern fans will point to the accent, the strange slang, the confounding references to tap water.
But give the Scottish scene your time and you’ll find hidden gems with more frequency than a sectarian chant at an Old Firm game.
Take Werd and Deeko. The two Edinburgh-based emcees have been spitting solid gold bars for over a decade. But the waves they make in their native land tend to register as nothing more than ripples outside the Scottish hip hop bubble.
Perhaps that will change with the release of their new album, Sorry We Were Missed. The Leith-based artists have spent the past few years plugging away at their own projects. And despite not collabbing on an album together in 12 years, they’ve lost none of their acerbic symbiotic skills. In fact, perhaps mirroring society, Sorry We Were Missed is darker, angrier and far less predictable than previous releases.
There’s a vein running throughout Sorry We Were Missed. It’s a kind of longing for a different time, a genuine bewilderment at how we’ve ended up where we are. No wonder the bars are spat with more ferocity than a metal singer. From bars about the snowballing shitshow of British politics to the gentrification of their home turf, you can hear the anger dripping from each line.
But this isn’t just a screed against a corrupt, rotting civilisation. It’s also unashamedly candid insight into the life on an artist. Take ‘Leith Withers’, for example. Bars like “Working full-time and part-time on passions // Energy is taken on things that don’t matter” capture the mundane reality of working life. But they’re also underpinned by determination to stay the course in a world of endless hurdles.
‘Worlds End’, meanwhile, weaves a classic hip hop beat with some ridiculously heavy bars – including some exceptional guest bars courtesy of SOS stalwart Mog.
Production comes courtesy of a number of Scottish beatsmiths, including Scant Squad, Nunny and Jigz. And it truly is a smorgasbord of sounds, incorporating everything from traditional boom bap to trap to 1940s horror pulp (via a theremin-backed beat that works surprisingly well).
Regardless of how it’s received outside Scotland, Werd and Deeko will keep plugging on. The past decade has proved there’s plenty appetite for their sound in their home country. But for heads south of the border, Sorry We Were Missed is an opportunity to expand your horizons. And in 2021, that can only be a good thing.
Sorry We Were Missed is out now on Sons of Scotland (SOS). Check it out on Bandcamp here.